Paste Power Ranking: The 5 Best TV Shows on Right Now, from Only Murders to What We Do in the Shadows

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<i>Paste</i> Power Ranking: The 5 Best TV Shows on Right Now, from <i>Only Murders</i> to <i>What We Do in the Shadows</i>

Hulu had a slow start to kick things off this year, but it’s hitting the second half of 2021 hard. It is the home of our top three shows this week (two of which are part of its streaming agreement with FX), as well as a very good Honorable Mention. The ads may be tedious, but the quality of their series cannot be denied. And there’s more to come: The Great Season 2 is just around the corner, as is the intriguing Premise anthology. Watch this space—and that one.

The rules for the Power Rankings are simple: Any current series on TV qualifies, whether it’s a comedy, drama, news program, animated series, variety show or sports event. It can be on a network, basic cable, premium channel, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, YouTube or whatever you can stream on your smart TV, as long as a new episode was made available the previous week (ending Sunday) —or, in the case of shows released all at once, it has to have been released within the previous four weeks. The voting panel is composed of Paste Editors and TV writers with a pretty broad range of tastes.

Honorable Mention: Nine Perfect Strangers (Hulu), Heels (Starz), Evil (Paramount+), Brooklyn Nine-Nine (NBC)

5. The Other Two

Network: HBO Max
Last Week’s Ranking: 1
This Week: TV’s warmest cringe comedy.

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When last we left The Other Two’s Dubek clan, 14-year-old Chase (Case Walker)—aka viral pop singing sensation ChaseDreams—had just bombed at the VMAs and decided to retire from music altogether to attend college. While that choice might have made it seem like the Dubeks would then no longer be in the public eye, that news was immediately followed by the season-ending reveal that matriarch Pat (Molly Shannon) would be hosting her very own daytime talk show. As a result, Brooke (Heléne Yorke) and Cary (Drew Tarver) would continue to remain “The Other Two” of the celebrity family, only in a new, different kind of embarrassing way.

As this season will have a two-episode a week structure, each The Other Two drop will come from a place of both Chase and Pat’s current status. But while Brooke and Cary are still the most obvious “other two,” this second season works in interesting ways to both help them grow and become successes in their own right while also continuing to highlight just how big of a mess they both are.

Plus, the show’s biting humor and wit remain from moment one. The amount of jokes in just the first 30 seconds of the season premiere—even in just onscreen text—is an instant reminder of just how dense and astute of a comedy machine The Other Two is. As the series exists in such a realistic, relatable, and recognizable world, all of those comedic moments where it’s just slightly askew continue to hit hard, especially when it comes to the celebrity culture in which these characters find themselves in. But above all, The Other Two remains proof positive that satire and parody doesn’t need to come from a harsh place to work, even in—again—this climate. —LaToya Ferguson [Full Review]


4. What If…?

what-if-tchalla-main.jpeg

Network: Disney+
Last Week’s Ranking: Honorable Mention
This Week: Dr. Strange has come to bargin.

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Disney’s alt-MCU animated series What If…? kicked off with a pleasant-enough gender-swapped Captain America story, which retold the events of The First Avenger with an enhanced Peggy Carter helming the WWII mission instead. But the show really started to shine with its second episode, “What If… T’Challa Became a Star-Lord?” (which brought Chadwick Boseman’s immense talent back to our screens). From there, the series has embraced some of the darker narrative possibilities of the comics, including an episode where Dr. Strange messes with the multiverse enough that it collapses in on itself. The ending of that story was quick, bleak, and brutal. We kinda loved it. —Allison Keene


3. Reservation Dogs

Network: FX on Hulu (included in your Hulu subscription)
Last Week’s Ranking: Honorable Mention
This Week: A ride-along for the books… shitass.

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FX has found its niche in telling close-up, intimate stories extremely well, and Reservation Dogs is no exception. It focuses on four friends—Bear (D’Pharoah Woon-A-Tai), Elora (Devery Jacobs), Willie Jack (Paulina Alexis), and Cheese (Lane Factor)—who accidentally form an unofficial “gang” dubbed the “reservation bandits,” because of their penchant for light crime. Their hope is to get enough money to get to California, an ideal that’s always just out reach.

The lived-in, slightly surrealist comedy is a low-fi exploration of an Indigenous community in Oklahoma, whose leads shuffle around the “rez” among other misfits and sundries, and stumble into a variety of adventures that range from stealing a chip van to dealing with a snarky and overworked healthcare system. FX has touted Reservation Dogs, created by Sterlin Harjo and Taika Waititi, as revolutionary. In many ways it is; it features an all-Indigenous writers room, for one. But the show makes its boldest statement by not feeling like it’s making a statement at all. It’s an easy-going show, foul and funny, specific and accessible. It’s not about the kids being noble heroes or crime-loving villains; they’re just people. But they are also Indigenous people, which does mean something, and is all-too-rare to see on television—especially portrayed in such a wonderfully casual way.

But more than anything, Reservation Dogs is a perfect summer series, one that takes places on languid afternoons and moves at an unhurried pace. The kids make plans, scrounge for food, wander around, get into fights. They don’t talk or act like adults, and they’re not beaten down by cynicism. They have hopes and dreams, a love for family, an un-ironic embrace of community, and make a lot of silly mistakes. To say there is an innocence or even wholesomeness to Reservation Dogs would not be to quite hit the mark on how casually crass the show can be (it is ultimately a comedy for adults); but like its leads, it has a good heart. The friends are trying their best and hold each other close, even as they rib one another for their choices. It’s this balance that the show gets so right; not overly precious nor incredibly vulgar, just truth with an edge. Or as they would say, “Love ya, bitch.” —Allison Keene [Full Review]


2. What We Do in the Shadows

Network: FX on Hulu (included in your Hulu subscription)
Last Week’s Ranking: Not Eligible
This Week: I don’t give a cat’s knuckle, this is one of the best shows on television.

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What We Do in the Shadows Season 3 finds the vampires, as well as Guillermo, a little more introspective as they go about their daily (or nightly) routines. Just a little. They begin exploring their pasts and their very roots in new ways, and take on new, hliariously unearned positions within the Vampire Council. Expanding the show’s world in this way is the right move, giving further bizarre context to our leads so that they are more than just (excellent) punchlines and outrageous accents. Any good fantasy or supernatural series needs to come stocked with lore, and the way What We Do in the Shadows continues to weave these elements in makes the jokes land even harder.

The new season does reintroduce some other supernatural factions, but for the most part it’s interested in small stories that really play to the well-honed strengths of its cast. It’s clear that What We Do in the Shadows has a lot of confidence going into these new episodes (the show was also recently renewed for Season 4), and that it’s operating on its own terms. It does its best work that way, especially as it balances the particular strangeness of the vampire world with the everyday mundanity of ours. It’s always a treat to see the vampires move between those spaces, desecrating the ancient traditions of their kind—mostly on accident—and meeting a range of confusion, politeness, or curious acceptance when traveling to, say, Atlantic City.

When writing a review of a series that has been running for several years, the bottom line is letting entrenched viewers know if it is, indeed, still good, and to provide some general expectations. So yes, What We Do in the Shadows is still very, very good—maybe even better than ever. And if you aren’t caught up, well, there’s no better time. —Allison Keene [Full Review]


1. Only Murders in the Building

Network: Hulu
Last Week’s Ranking: Not Eligible
This Week: The only show that could possibly unseat the fantastic WWDITS.

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After 35 years of sharing stage and screen, it’s still a delight to watch Steve Martin and Martin Short work together. Now, along with Selena Gomez, they find themselves embroiled in a murder mystery. The endearing comedy follows the trio of true-crime obsessives as they try to crack a case in their shared apartment building.

The neighbors make an unlikely gang: Charles-Haden Savage (Martin) is a washed-up actor who used to star as a TV detective, and the overconfidence he has in his residual investigative skills thinly masks a deeply insecure man; Oliver Putnam (Short) contrasts Charles as a flamboyant former theater director with a big personality and even bigger debts; Mabel (a well-cast Gomez) is a stylish and quietly mysterious young woman who has more of a connection to the case than she initially lets on. But when they find out they share a suspicion that a tragic suicide in their building was actually a homicide, they decide to try their hand at uncovering the truth—and start a podcast to follow their investigation.

The series—and the podcast within—depend on our central trio being engaging, and the combination of personalities works out well; the cast is dynamic, earning laughs while slowly revealing morsels of their secretly lonely lives to each other. While our heroes like to complicate things, Only Murders in the Building itself keeps things simple; it’s a pleasant and enjoyable series that’s clearly made with a lot of heart. —Kristen Reid [Full Review]



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